California Considers Non-Jury Trials for Misdemeanor Offenses

California is considering doing away with jury trials for misdemeanor cases, where offenses are 6 months or less.  This is a cost-cutting idea from a justice in the 2nd district court of appeals in L.A.  Judge Judith Ashmann-Gerst said, “We should consider no jury trials in misdemeanor cases where the penalty will be less than 6 months in jail.  Prisoners are doing about a minute and a half anyway.”Source: http://www.courts.ca.gov/2380.htm

Eugene Hyman, retired Superior Court Judge of Santa Clara, California says it’s more than just the amount of jail time you get; it’s the lifetime consequences of having a conviction.  He says that certain sexual misdemeanor charges carrying  less than 6 months that require you to register for the rest of your life.   If you use the sole standard in terms of whether or not it’s a possible 6 months of jail time, you wouldn’t have the right to a jury trial but if convicted, you’d have to register for the rest of your life.

Hyman says that there is a lot of public support to streamline things that require constitutional law change because while you have the federal laws that set minimum constitutional due process, California law has its own requirements.  However, those requirements can’t require less than the federal government but can require more which can be done by proposition and it depends on how it’s titled, which is important in terms of bias, Hyman adds.

Honorable Judge Eugene Hyman has received numerous awards and recognition for his work with families and children and has appeared on numerous television news shows.  For more information, visit www.judgehyman.com.  He is also a featured commentator on The Family Law Channel and The Legal Broadcast Network.